Overall ranking: 70
Hotelier ranking: 16
David Orr - Snapshot
David Orr is chief executive of City Inn, the owner and operator of a collection of large four-star city centre hotels with an award-winning approach to design. All are new-builds, offering a contemporary style, personalised service and destination restaurants, called City Cafés. They are also owned freehold or on long leases. The company, which was set up in 1995, has opened six hotels since 1999, representing an investment of £300m.
David Orr - Career guide
David Orr, who was born in 1963, read political science at Birmingham University and completed a masters degree in land management at the University of Reading before taking his first job as a property consultant.
Orr became a partner in John AS McGregor chartered surveyors in 1993, where he secured sites for Travel Inn, Brewers Fayre, Costa Coffee, Hogshead and TGI Friday’s brands for Whitbread.
In 1995 he set up First Stop Hotels – the parent of City Inn – with his father, Sandy Orr, and Sandy’s business partner Donald MacDonald (not the founder of Macdonald Hotels). Together they have developed and financed many city centre hotels, including six Novotels and the Edinburgh Travel Inn and Sheraton hotels.
City Inn, a joint venture with HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland), opened its first hotel in Bristol in 1999. This was followed by hotels in Glasgow (2000), Birmingham (2001), Westminster (2003), Manchester (2007) and Leeds (2009). Westminster is the flagship property and, with 460 bedrooms, it was the largest new-build hotel in central London in 30 years.
David Orr - What we think
David Orr has created this innovative, modern hotel company through extensive research into the requirements of business travellers. In short, he pays attention to detail and it has paid off.
Part of Orr’s design philosophy dates back to the seven months he spent training to be a cricketer in India after leaving school. Here he visited the Maharajah of Baroda’s palace, whose French architect committed suicide after realising that the building was facing the wrong way. This architectural lesson informs Orr’s self-confessed “obsessive attention” to natural light and orientation.
Orr has also adopted a long-term approach to building up his business. Before opening the first hotel, he spent three years travelling around the UK, looking at sites and researching hotel designs, room ergonomics and the needs of the business traveller.
This long gestation period delivered a stringent blueprint for City Inns, whose style Orr sums up as “restrained, urban and modernistic, without being a fashion statement”.
In 2003 City Inn Westminster marked a forward leap in the evolution of the concept, which had started out as a kind of upmarket budget offering. It scooped the Group Hotel of the Year award at the 2005 Cateys for its innovation, its high-quality food operation and its trading success.
As one judge put it: “It has almost created its own genre, somewhere between budget and full-service, and it takes business from both.”
In 2007 City Inn ranked third in the Sunday Times Profit Track 100, making it the highest-ranking hospitality company that year.
Expansion is under way, and Orr is currently overseeing the development of a 580-bedroom hotel near the Tower of London costing about £150m. He is also on target to open the group’s first overseas venture, a €150m (£123m) hotel in Amsterdam with 550 bedrooms. Both hotels are expected to open in early 2011.
Orr is considering another London hotel and has his sights set on other major European cities, such as Paris, Barcelóna, Madrid, Rome and Milan and – in the longer term - is aiming for sites in the USA.
City Inn has not escaped the downturn, although it can be said to have held its own. Percentage occupancy in 2009 hit the mid-70s, with room rate averaging £95, up on the year previously. And in the year to 2009, operating profits rose from £11m to £13m and turnover from £43m to £46m.
David Orr - Further information